It’s no secret that Unai Emery has inherited a squad that has had to adjust majorly after many years with Arsène Wenger but there are still many areas of the squad which need to be upgraded and below are three players who we must chase in the next couple of transfer windows.
First up is Ferland Mendy, the Lyon left-back who joined the club in the summer of 2017 from Le Havre for £5m has caught eyes this season with his excellent performances at the French club and whilst we have an injury-prone Sead Kolasinac and an ageing Nacho Monreal, Mendy fits the bill superbly. One thing I feel we lack in our side is good width, Mendy has completed 2.2 dribbles per game in his 10 Ligue 1 games, compared to 0.1 for Monreal and 0 for Kolasinac, and with Unai Emery wanting to engage his full-backs in the offensive side of the game, this is a massive improvement on what we have. Mendy is a player who has been likened to his namesake Benjamin, who plays for Manchester City, he is a player who often joins attacks and loves to get forward and his defensive numbers, he has given more fouls away this season than both Kolasinac and Monreal but has been dribbled past 0.1 times in 10 games, compared to 0.7 for Monreal and 1.5 for Kolasinac which again is a big upgrade and would be a big plus if we were being countered against. Despite Barcelona being linked with the Frenchman, who has just received his first call following the withdrawal of Benjamin Mendy, Arsenal will do very well to sign him but this is a fantastic player who we should be looking at.
Next, we have Malcom, who joined Barcelona in July but has thus far failed to make a mark on the Catalan giants side after his £39m move from Bordeaux, having made just 3 league appearances this term. The interest with Malcom started in January 2018 when the Brazilian appeared to be close to joining the Gunners as a replacement for the outgoing Alexis Sanchez but the deal came to nothing until Barcelona moved to sign him this summer. The Brazilian who is just 21 years old, earned his starlet tag during his time in France and during his last season with the French club, he scored 9 goals, created 76 chances and assisted six, he also completed 2.7 dribbles and 2.5 key passes per game which is the sort of quality Arsenal are absolutely craving from a wide player. This is compared to 1 key pass and 0.6 dribbles for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and 0.8 key passes and 1.6 dribbles per game for Alex Iwobi, another large improvement on the output which would be vital for our very poor options out wide currently. With Malcom seemingly having fallen out of favour at Barcelona, there are murmurs of a loan move in January but that may be the best thing currently, but we have to be looking at the Brazilian on a permanent basis if we want to solve our long-term problem on the right-hand side.
Dayot Upamecano, a French centre-half who has been a revelation in Germany with RB Leipzig, and a player attracting interest across Europe. Dayot is a player I’ve admired for a long time and it will be tough for the Gunners to sign him but he is everything we lack in a defender. Dayot has said in the past that he idolises Raphael Varane, the young Frenchman is strong in one-on-one duels, and everything you expect from a modern defender, quick, aggressive, agile and has the physical and technical attributes that our defenders sometimes lack. His numbers this season don’t actually tell the full story as he has less clearances, blocks and a lower passing completion rate than the heavily-criticsed Shkodran Mustafi, but he is just 20 years old and adding him to our defensive options is an absolute no brainer and adds a real dynamism to our unit. Honestly, it will be tough to get him, with Barcelona rumoured to be lurking (when aren’t they?) we face a real tough challenge to sign him but he’s an option that we should look at.
Nathan Ake, since joining Bournemouth from Chelsea in 2016 he has been one of the most underrated defenders in the English game, and has been linked with Manchester United and Tottenham is one player I’d absolutely love Arsenal to sign. He has a clearance rate that is only bettered by Shkodran Mustafi amongst Arsenal’s centre-halves, he has also committed less fouls than any of them, has made the same amount of blocks per game and has only been dribbled past 0.3 times per game, bettered only by Sokratis. The likeliness of this deal becoming a reality seems fairly low right now as the fee being spoken about is around the £40m mark, which seems a bit steep for a player that Chelsea let go only just over a year ago, but he’s made drastic improvements whilst being given regular first-team football and has flourished under the excellent Eddie Howe and this fluid Bournemouth side.
Overall, it will take time for Unai Emery to find the personnel that will fit the system and the way he wants to play, and him and his diamond-eyed Sven Mislintat may unearth more gems such as Lucas Torreira to fill the voids that we have so these names are just players that should be on our radar, but whoever we sign, we must trust in the process and it’s a really exciting period.
Occasional writer who follows the Arsenal home and away. Dennis is our greatest ever.